Music for the Metro: Albuquerque explains booking, budget for city concerts

The summer season not only brings hot weather for Albuquerque, but lots of live music across the city. 

Keeping the tunes playing is massive undertaking done by a small team of city employees who are working with both local and national acts, all on a tight budget. 

“Being able to give the citizens of Albuquerque something free or low cost with quality entertainment, it’s really good to be able to offer this and showcase our city,” said Bree Ortiz, the events manager for the city of Albuquerque’s Department of Cultural Services. 

Ortiz is one of the masterminds behind the city’s music booking. She says each year, around 500 musical acts perform at various city events 

“Family friendly events (where people can) bring their whole family, for most of the time free,” said Ortiz. 

To do it all, the city has a tight budget, as well. According to budget documents, the city will spend $400,000 on special events in fiscal year 2019, from July 2018 to July 2019.  

That budget isn’t just for performers though. It covers every single cost associated with the event. 

“We just have just one bucket that we have to be able to budget out how we can pay for security, lighting, parking and then also the artist fees out of that,” said Ortiz. 

As for the artists, the city says it relies on local talent for the majority of the musical acts it books. 

“We really depend on the local artists to come out and help us and entertain,” said Ortiz. 

Local acts are often paid a flat rate, which is associated by the size of the venue. For example, performers on the Old Town patio typically get paid $100 per show. 

Ortiz says the biggest challenge with booking local acts is the sheer size of the pool of talent to choose from. 

“I think the hardest part is there’s so many great artists here to be able to give everybody an opportunity,” said Ortiz. “To be able to give them a chance to be able to play at some of these events is something that we really strive to do.” 

The situation is different for national musical acts. Typically, the city books a headlining national act for the Freedom Fourth July 4th concert, the varying Summerfest concerts and for several nights of Zoo Music concerts. 

For national acts, typically, the city relies on booking agents to help find musicians willing to play. 

“We reach out with a lot of different agents and kind of put out there, this is the genre we’re looking for, this is the date we’re looking for who’s available?” Said Ortiz. 

Once booking agents communicate who’s available and for what price, the city says it researches which artists could best fit the event they’re looking to book for. 

“We do a lot of research on how these performers are live,” said Ortiz. “Are they family friendly? Is it a genre that will really fit in with a large demographic?” 

The cost for national acts can vary greatly, but ultimately, the city has to stay within its budget. 

Ozomatli is headlining the free Westside Summerfest concert in August. According to city contracts, the band will get $11,250 for the performance. 

Lisa Loeb is playing “Zoo Music” in August. City contracts show that performance will cost $15,000. Zoo Music performances are slightly different though, as the event charges for admission. 

Typically, the city shells out between $10,000 and $30,000 for national headlining musicians. 

Most of the decision on who plays depends on money. 

“Budget is number one, and then availability,” said Ortiz. 

The most expensive headliner the city’s booked in recent years was Clint Black, who cost the city $60,000 to perform at Freedom Fourth in 2017. 

KRQE News 13 also asked New Mexico State Fair organizers how much they pay to bring in bands. The Fair says bigger acts cost upwards of a $100,000. However, the State Fair recoups some of that money through ticket sales. Kenny Loggins, Big and Rich and Joe Jonas have all cost $100,000 or more in the last few years. 

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